efficient movement prevents wear and tear. More important, however,
is what it does to the image of ourselves and our relationship to
the world around us.”
The Elusive Obvious, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1981)
A Powerful Tool For Change
The Feldenkrais Method® is a powerful tool for change. By gently
but insistently challenging our movement habits, and our fixed ideas
about our physical selves, we can come to recognise similar and
related inflexibilities in our ways of thinking.
Feldenkrais strategies are used to explore, clarify and modify unconscious
habitual ways of moving and thinking, increasing the range of choices
we have available to us in our everyday actions.
Do You Know What You Are Doing?
Are you aware of what your physical self is doing when you reach
up to a high shelf, or turn to look over your shoulder while reversing
a car, or - a common cause of sudden back injury - bend down to
pick something up off the floor?
Human beings are much more ‘individual’ than any other
kind of creature because we discover almost all our movements by
trial and error, over a relatively long period of time. In contrast,
a newborn herd animal can usually be up and walking about, rather
inelegantly, very shortly after birth. The creature’s movements
are “hard-wired” into its nervous system, there is no
learning involved, and consequently it walks exactly the same way
as all the others of its species, unless its structure is damaged
in some way.
The Purpose Of Play
Humans are born breathing, squalling, and all curled up. We have
automatic processes in place which are vital to our survival, but
only a few movements available for immediate use; sucking, some
flexion, kicking (noticeably present before birth), general limited
waving of limbs, and a highly efficient distress indication system.
As babies we need to explore our physical possibilities in order
to discover what our bodies are capable of, with plenty of on-the-floor
time to develop the necessary skills and strengths to graduate from
baby to toddler to the physical sophistication of a five-year old.
This highly effective play is prompted by simple needs and curiosities,
without the time frames, competitive comparisons, and ‘correct’
results that we are all introduced to at school age, and which hamper
our natural learning abilities from then onwards.
What Is Your True Potential?
A baby is motivated by curiosity about itself and the world: the
desire to examine something more closely encourages lots of movements,
from rolling into sitting to flexing the fingers and opposing the
thumbs; the desire to follow Mummy’s voice out of the room
may prompt a baby to discover looking over a shoulder while lying
on her front. These gentle explorations take us from rolling to
sitting to crawling to walking and, because we designed it ourselves
by trial and error, our walk is so distinctive that those who know
us can recognise us from a distance by our gait alone. The advantage
of this lengthy development process is that we as a species are
amazingly adaptable and have a huge capacity for learning, but sadly
the vast majority of us stop improving our ability to perform all
our various actions as soon as they are good enough for us to get
by in the world, well short of the efficiency and grace we are all
We enjoy watching those who have taken a particular skill to a peak
level of performance - dancers, athletes, musicians, singers, mimics,
martial artists - not realising that everyday movements are just
as graceful and satisfying when performed with awareness by a well-organised
nervous system; for example the elegant, gently swaying gait of
a woman carrying a large pot of water on her head, or the lightness
and fluidity we see in the walk of a dancer like Fred Astaire.
Minimum Power, Maximum Achievement
The Feldenkrais process reactivates our inbuilt learning tools -
exploration and play. In our work the goals are unstated, and they
vary from individual to individual. There is no one right way to
do any lesson, but there are always easier, more pleasurable, more
efficient ways to do the things we do everyday, and often these
are rediscovered from our childhood play.
Moshe Feldenkrais: Engineer, Martial Artist, Football Player
Dr. Feldenkrais thought like an engineer
and a martial artist. He saw good posture as a state of relaxed
readiness, and felt that one should be able to move in any direction
without preparation, i.e. without physical or mental adjustment.
“The aim is a body that is organised to move with minimum
effort and maximum efficiency, not through muscular strength, but
increased consciousness of how it works”
His engineer’s appreciation of the relationship between structure
and function brought him to the understanding that human structure,
with its naturally high centre of gravity, demands that we embrace
our inherent lack of stability and develop a fluid relationship
with balance. In order to become a fully realised “potent”
human being, we need to learn to dance with gravity, not fight it.
Gravity is a great teacher, and relaxation can feel like giving
in and accepting its gentle pressure. When we tense our muscles
to fight gravity, bracing ourselves to face our daily stresses,
life becomes a constant struggle, our bodies harden and start to
“age”, our choices seem more and more limited. We are
steadily losing the ability to use the very adaptability that defines
our humanity. Only by learning again to trust our whole self to
do what is most effective in any situation can we find an alternative
to this daily struggle. It is not within our power to make the world
safe, but we can re-embrace the flexibility and self-awareness that
enables us to create brand new strategies, and make the best possible
choices in difficult situations.